FORT STEWART, Ga. (AP) - Three years after military cutbacks forced Fort Stewart to shutter one of its three combat brigades, the sprawling Army post has a shot at luring a new tank brigade that would bring roughly 4,000 additional soldiers to southeast Georgia.
“We’d welcome the additional capability,” Maj. Gen. Lee Quintas, Fort Stewart’s commanding general, told reporters Friday when asked about the opportunity to expand the ranks of the 3rd Infantry Division.
The Army announced in March plans to convert a light infantry brigade based at Fort Carson, Colorado, into an armored brigade. An Army report named five potential homes for the new brigade that included Fort Stewart, 35 miles (56 kilometers) southwest of Savannah.
As the largest Army post east of the Mississippi River, Fort Stewart has large outdoor ranges for firing tanks and other heavy weapons. Hunter Army Airfield in nearby Savannah and the city’s large seaport give Fort Stewart units and their heavy gear the ability to deploy rapidly by air and sea.
Fort Stewart leaders said they also have room to accommodate a new tank brigade.
In 2004, Fort Stewart added a third combat brigade barely a year after the Iraq war began. More than a decade later, the end of combat operations there and military budget cuts forced the 3rd Infantry to lose a brigade and roughly 1,900 total troops. That means a new brigade could move in without having to add new facilities, said Brig. Gen. Sean Bernabe, who led Fort Stewart for nine months until Quintas returned in April from a deployment to Afghanistan.
“Our assessment is we do have the space for motor pools, for barracks,” Bernabe said. “We do have training capacity here.”
The Army has said the new tank brigade could remain based in Colorado, or be moved to another post. Other possible locations named in the Army’s report were Fort Riley, Kansas, and Texas posts Fort Bliss and Fort Hood.
Georgia’s lawmakers in Washington are urging the Army to choose Fort Stewart. U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue, along with U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, sent a letter Monday to Army Secretary Mark Esper to make their pitch, saying “there is no place in the Army where it is cheaper for combat soldiers to live, train and deploy.”
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